To: Friends and Supporters
Fr: A. Jalil Bottom
Re: Parole Denial
Dt: November 19, 2009
On 11/17/09, I sat before the parole board comprised of Parole Commissioner Ludlow and Commissioner Hagerty, also in the room were facility parole officers A.J. Ruters and M. Saben, with a stenographer recording the proceedings. Commissioner Ludlow conducted the hearing, reviewing my parole folder and the record, placing no emphasis on any specific area. I, of course, emphasized all of my achievements, the tremendous level of supporters in the country, including a victim impact statement urging my release on parole, letters from 2 San Francisco Supervisors, a letter from NYC councilman, and a letter from the Honorable Archbishop Desmond Tutu supporting my release on parole. There were many letters from people of different walks of life extolling my achievements and exclaiming their support for my release. More importantly and extraordinary was the letter from Waverly Jones Jr., the son of the victim in this case on behalf of his family telling the parole board his family forgave me and stated there could be no closure for his family until I am released from prison.
The parole board ignored the overwhelming support from the community for my release, and denied me parole.
I have come to the conclusion after this, my fourth parole appearance, with essentially the same reasons for denying me parole, that the parole system is not a fair and impartial decision making body. It is a political institution with a law enforcement agenda. Because it has a law enforcement agenda the parole board is incapable of being fair and impartial in cases where a police officer’s death is involved.
Therefore, in order to win release from prison on parole it is necessary that progressive supporters understand how this institutional government bureaucracy operates in its self interest. As a bureaucratic body part of the Executive government, it is beholden to the governor’s office and the state legislature. The judiciary generally supports the law enforcement agenda of the parole board. As an example, NYS appellate Division for the Third Department recently affirmed the decision of NYS Division of Parole rescinding the original granting of parole to a prisoner in a 1974 killing of a prisoner after the PBA demonstrated their dissatisfaction of the parole board’s original decision. The PBA actively persuaded the victim’s survivor to file a late negative impact statement. The court ruled the importance of the victim impact statement compelled a reversal of the original granting of release. Here, we find an obvious “double standard,” where a positive victim impact statement was filed in my behalf and it was ignored or disregarded because the victim’s family is also Black and considered less important in comparison to the self-interest of the law enforcement agenda. For this “double standard” to be rectified and to effect a reversal of the parole decision it will be necessary to do the following:
1. We need to organize a coalition of progressive folks willing and able to concentrate on this issue.
2. The religious / faith based community must be brought on board in support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s position on humanitarian grounds after 38 years in prison.
3. Elected officials must be challenged for their refusal and failure to intervene and oppose special interest groups of the PBA’s overwhelming influence over the parole board—circumventing court established sentences- and the rehabilitative achievements of prisoners. Specific elected officials must be targeted and urged to take a public stand against the practices of the parole board.
4. Governor Patterson must be told his choice of parole chairman and commissioners must reflect the desires of the community.
The four above points are specific objectives that need to be addressed in a uniform and deliberate determination to effectuate change. If there is not a significant increase in support demanding my/our release, it will only be because progressives continue to do the same things or nothing expecting different results. Instead they need to change their practices directly in response to the objective political reality of institutional repression and racism endemic of the NYS prison and parole system.
As I process the appeal of the parole denial, letters directed to both Gov. Patterson and NYS Division of Parole Chair Andrea Evans must continue. However, these letters need to be more demanding and poignant. For example, Governor Patterson needs to be told in no uncertain terms, that because of his failure to release former BPP members, and his failure to monitor and correct the NYS Division of Parole adherence to former Gov. Pataki’s parole policy denying release to A-1 felons despite their rehabilitative achievements, the progressive community will not support his bid for re-election.
Governor Patterson needs to receive hundreds of letters, faxes & phone calls making this point--adamantly campaigning against him unless he becomes responsive to the progressive community’s desires and demands. This position must be held in every borough through NYC, and other elected officials should be taken to task on this issue. Furthermore, a campaign should be directed to elected officials, especially State legislators, demanding the resignation of the Chairwoman of the NYS Parole Board for continuing the former Gov. Pataki’s parole policies and for succumbing to the PBA’s pressure and propaganda. We need to demand the resignation of Andrea Evans, further demanding the appointment of a chairperson reflecting the desires of our community.
This is “Power Politics” that will require the powers that be take notice--and the strength of the initiative will ultimately yield our success.
Yours in Struggle for Freedom,